Protea Heights using solar to go green

Nathan Eveleigh, Ben van Dijk, Nicole de Wee and Danielle Galant have already started researching the benefits of solar energy.

Protea Heights Academy in Brackenfell is among several Western Cape schools that will have solar panels installed in coming weeks.

A global solar-leasing company, Sun Exchange, has adopted the school for a pilot project to help schools save on their energy bills and beat tariff hikes.

The school will not pay any installation fees, and it has a lifetime guarantee for maintenance on the 112 solar panels that will power lights, computers and interactive whiteboards, among other things.

The company’s project allows people around the world to purchase a solar cell and then donate it to schools or organisations in developing regions.

While other Western Cape government schools, which are still to be identified, will also benefit from the project, the work at Protea Heights Academy will begin in the first week of May.

The school is thrilled to be going green, according to principal Wendy Horn.

“The solar panels are an extension of the vision to create a ‘green’ school and show the learners what the future should look like. It supports the curriculum in sensitising the learners to the contributing factors of climate change and what we as individuals can do to ensure we arrest this,” she said.

The school already harvests rain water and stores it in what it calls its “tanks farm”, and a new building, still under construction, will have an underground reservoir for rainwater.

Grade 11 pupil Jonathan De Kock said he and the rest of the pupils were all excited to learn about the use and benefits of the solar power system being installed.

Sun Exchange approached the Western Cape Education Department to find schools that could benefit from their projects.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer said it had always been a dream to have solar panels installed at Cape Town schools but the cost had always been a hurdle.

“We have a responsibility to be more proactive in limiting our carbon footprint, but it has been too expensive for us to implement widely in schools.

“This is also a great opportunity to teach the learners about the technology and principles of entrepreneurship, and our role as a country in the sustainable development goals. This really is an outstanding example of making learning come to life.”

Abraham Cambridge, founder and CEO of Sun Exchange, said the transition to clean energy was at the core of his company’s mission.

“By solar powering schools, we’re driving forward this transition while showing future generations what is possible through technology innovation,” he said.